LCD Soundsystem, Yeah Yeah Yeahs With Young Fathers At The Hollywood Bowl, Friday May 4th 2018
I have declared yesterday as the start of summer, I had my first concert marathon yesterday and with the temperatures in the 90ºF, it totally felt like summer. Yeah Yeah Yeahs and LCD Soundsystem were playing their first night at the Hollywood Bowl, with even Young Fathers as early openers, and the evening was looking very long but excellent.
As I was walking up on Highland avenue to the famous venue nested in the Hollywood hills, I thought that going to the Bowl always feels like a real expedition. I got there very early because doors were supposed to open at 4:45 pm – they actually opened a bit later – and having a general admission, a first at the bowl, I wanted to get as close to the stage as possible. I had never been able to score or pay for a GA at this 17,000-seat venue, and I have always seen the stage from a far-away bench seat, so leaning against the rail last night was a truly amazing experience, standing just in front of the stage, with the best view in the house.
The many seats were slowly filling up, Angelenos never come that early for a show, since who can afford to brave the Friday night traffic just after work? I got lucky, and it would have been a shame to miss Young Fathers, even though I had just seen them at Amoeba the previous day. Playing the bowl for the Scottish band must have been a thrill, although they looked very serious and concentrated on their pure energy set of layered compositions. Once again, they had live drumming and were relying on electronic tapes, while the hybrid vocals of the three frontmen, Alloysious Massaquoi, Kayus Bankole and Graham Hastings, were going from soothing croons to menacing whispers and wild wails over aggressive noisy tapes… Their deeply layered performance was even more fired up than their set at Amoeba, probably because they had more space to express themselves and were playing in front of a huge audience, at least a very large space as the bowl had not completely filled up yet around 7 pm…In any case, they created an amazing chaos of noise, beats and harmonies, with electronic beats, infectious loops, scary recorded tapes, often building a tension with many levels of complexity, and taking people around me by surprise, since many of them had never heard about Young Fathers. More than ever, their performance was mixing something very primitive and raw with a rare level of sophistication… They showed their very diverse palette of sonic textures with ‘What a Time To Be Alive’, ‘Wire’, ‘Feasting’, ‘Toy, ‘Get Up’ Rain or Shine’ ‘Old Rock N Roll’, ‘In My View’, and closed their set with ‘Shame’, one of their most ‘TV On The Radio’ songs.
Yeah Yeah Yeahs were next, and despite the fact they have played quite a few shows at the end of 2017 (I saw them at the Growlers Festival in October) there is still a huge interest for the New York band. Sharing the night with LCD Soundsystem was actually a good idea, since they managed to sell out twice the Hollywood bowl, which is quite the performance.
Yeah Yeah Yeahs are all about their frontwoman, Karen O, who is unconditionally loved by many. She is still commanding the stage like a sexy athlete, wearing black high socks, sneakers, one protective knee pad, glittery shorts and two different jackets during her set. She was all glitter, silver, studded leather, and everything she touched was shining, everything she was wearing looked like a flamboyant runway. Karen O is in charge, and I barely noticed guitarist Nick Zinner, keyboardist-bassist Imaad Wasif and drummer Brian Chase in the back of the stage, all eclipsed by tornado O, who prowled and bounced all set long, dropped to her knees a few times, swallowed the mic before whipping the floor with the cord. She was powerful and tender at the same time, strong and vulnerable, embodying yin and yang, a combination which probably explains why people love her so much.
Her screams were pure terror and she pushed a few female warrior shrieks over the discordant noise and the aggressive guitars of ‘Rockers to Swallow’. She continued this way for the largest part of the set, while mostly revisiting old songs from the band’s 2003 ‘Fever to Tell’ and 2009 ‘It’s Blitz!’ albums, and a rare song (‘Under the Earth’) from ‘Mosquito’. There was an explosion of pink Y-shaped confetti during ‘Black Tongue,’ bringing the crowd euphoria a step further
Karen O has a unique way to stretch her voice, she screamed ‘Friday Tonight’ to us with a raucous cute inflection, but she looked very happy all set long, visibly ecstatic to be on the stage of the magic hollywood Bowl. ‘Tonight is the night,’ she told us, ‘It’s a dream to play the Hollywood Bowl, it was so worth the 18 years to get here!’ she added all smile and red lips, with her eyes barely visible behind her hair. Her vulnerability was a beautiful thing to witness during the emotional ‘Runaway’ and its superb ascending guitars, or the catchy anthemic chorus of ‘Gold Lion’.
Of course, ‘Maps’, their most celebrated song, was a highlight of the show, introduced by Karen O with a love fest: ‘I’d like to dedicate this song to someone you love more than life itself!… I’d like to dedicate this song to someone you loved and you lost!… I’d like to dedicate this song to all the girls in the crowd!… I have seen the future and it’s female!… I’d like to dedicate this song to all you lovers at the Hollywood Bowl, tonight! Yeah Yeah Yeahs is love! I’d like to dedicate this song to LCD Soundsystem and Young Fathers!!’ Karen was on a roll of love and it became even more obvious when she got close to the edge of the stage, pulled her shirt strap down to show the top of her chest and stabbed herself with the mic at the place of her heart. But she stayed a lasso glitter princess warrior till the end, especially during their last song, the bluesy hard rocking ‘Date With The Night’, exploding into a pulsatile chaos of sounds with Karen O hooting with abandon.
LCD Soundsystem has a very different way to capture the crowd’s attention, actually you can’t go more different than these two bands live: if the Yeah Yeah Yeahs are fueling on their frontwoman’s energy, James Murphy and his bandmates’ stage moves are rather limited and LCD relies on the music and its infectious grooves to make everyone dance with euphoria. The front row was holding the rail as one single person, shaking, jumping and bouncing, arms stretched toward Murphy, who had his mic glued close to his mouth the entire time. When I see LCD Soundsystem (it was my third time), I am amazed by the amount of material they bring on stage, and from my front row place, everything was building a barrier preventing a full vision of the stage and the large band. However, I had James Murphy, his low-key mannerism and his lock of hair floating above the mic. ‘Hi everybody, Hi’ he said after ‘Tribulations’,…’We’ve never played with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs before , which is fucking stupid ’cause we know each other.’
If Karen O terrorized us with love and fury, James Murphy barely moved when he repeated his famous lines during ‘I Can Change’ or ‘Get Innocuous’ over the band layered electronica and beats. He looked so brilliant, wearing an immaculate white suit and white shirt, rarely turning around, to add a few beats on the drumset at his left side. The miracle with LCD is always this super organized chaos, these layers of instrumentations, noises, sounds, building repetitive loops and slowly nourishing giant grooves for the great joy of everyone around me.
There were the great hits, the new songs, just a few of them, from their new album ‘American Dream’, like the harsh dance floors of ‘Tonite’, or the soothing ooo-ooooooos of the exotic circular rhythms of ‘Home’, or the huge disco ball of their Chic cover ‘I Want Your Love’, ending by Nancy Whang’s solo on vocals.
They played ‘How Do You Sleep’ for the first time ever, and this may have been the most cathartic part of the show, with James moaning over a long-sprawling and ascending music. Only few songs were left and Murphy was already reminding us about the sad reality of the end of the show, and the waste of time that encores are…. ‘Save it, there’s nothing we can do,’ he added with a few existential observations about post-event loneliness. ‘When we leave it’s the fucking end… And you are on your own’
But there was still more to come and the unavoidable crowd pleasers such as ‘Dance Yourself Clean’ and ‘New York, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down’, an addition to the setlist that they managed to fit in the set despite the tight curfew at the Bowl. It was a loose rendition, imperfect and a bit funny, that could have made the purists almost uncomfortable… but who cares about perfection and purists? Not James Murphy and certainly not me, I had this front row spot for the night and I could see each one of his hair waving in the light when he was saying ‘New York you’re safer and you’re wasting my time’.
It takes a few seconds for Karen O to roar and spit water like a geyser, but it takes several minutes for a typical LCD Soundsystem slow-bomb song to really start. However, despite their opposite directions, both bands did trigger the same euphoric response in the very enthusiastic crowd, and I didn’t waste my time.
Yeah Yeah Yeahs setlist
Rockers to Swallow
Under the Earth
Heads Will Roll
Date With The Night
LCD Soundsystem Setlist
You Wanted a Hit
I Can Change
Call the Police
I Want Your Love
How Do You Sleep?
Dance Yrself Clean
All My Friends
New York, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down